One day during World War I a young witch in London suddenly invades a committee meeting on War Savings. The charitable members of the committee (mostly ladies) spend their time trying to persuade the poor to save money. They are fascinated when the stranger appears out of nowhere and ducks under a table.
“I stole this bun,” she explained frankly. “There is an uninterned German baker after me.”
“And why did you steal it?” asked Miss Ford, pronouncing the H in “why” with a haughty and terrifying sound of suction.
The stranger sighed. “Because I couldn’t afford to buy it.”
Her explanation that she had no money because she had contributed it all to War Bonds makes them blanch. But all are affected by this whimsical character, who turns out to be a witch sometimes called Angela (she tries various names before settling on this one), and when she leaves her broomstick behind, Sarah Brown, a sickly young committee member with no life, returns it to her on Mitten Island. When the witch invites her to stay there, in a house called Living Alone, for people who have gotten sick of living alone in poverty, her life changes and her attitude toward her work.
Sarah, who collects information on the Naughty Poor from and for “charitable spies,” loves office supplies. She is fond of recording the information, whatever it might be, on little cards, only because she loves pencil and paper.
There are people to whom a ream of virgin paper is an inspiration, who find the first sharpening of a pencil the most lovable of all labors, who see something almost holy in the dedication of green and red penholders to their appropriate inks, in whose ears and before whose eyes the alphabet is like a poem or a prayer.”
She suddenly realizes she cannot continue to do this work after experiencing the true charity of the witch.
There are also fairies and a dragon.
I am enjoying this very much. I love witch books.
And so I have collected a few other witch titles to go along with this post.
SEVEN OTHER WITCH BOOKS
1. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner The spinster Lolly Willowes spends 20 years living with her brother’s family after her father dies, and one day after World War I can no longer take it. She moves to the rural village of Great Mop. It’s not the traditional village it seems: witches frolic and free Lolly from convention.
2. The White Witch by Elizabeth Goudge. This lyrical novel, set during the English Civil War, is a historical saga of Royalists and Parliamentarians, ordinary people in the new Puritan regime divided by politics and religion. The characters include Froniga, half gypsy, with a reputation for being a witch, Yoben, a Royalist tinker who took refuge among the gypsies long ago for mysterious reasons, Francis, an itinerant painter; and a Parliamentarian family with twin children.
I love the writing and love the book.
3. The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare. This Newbery winner about a girl and a widow accused of witchcraft in 1687 was one of my favorites when I was growing up. I’d love to reread it.
4. Wicked by Gregory Maguire. Well, of course you know this one. The Wicked Witch of the West, Elphaba, is good and not evil, while Dorothy is bad. It’s The Wizard of Oz with animal rights.
5. The Crucible by Arthur Miller. Play about the Salem witch trials, an allegory of McCarthyism.
6. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe. A light novel that I couldn’t put down! Harvard grad Connie discovers a key and scrap of paper in her grandmother’s cottage that lead to a book of spells…and…
7. Corrag by Susan Fletcher. Fletcher’s lyrical narrative is divided into two parts: short letters from Charles Leslie, an Irish Jacobite sent to Scotland to investigate the 1692 Massacre of Glencoe; and his long interviews with Corrag, a young woman accused of witchcraft, through a fascinating first-person chronicle of her short life. Fascinating and beautifully written.